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How to Ensure Your Gmail Contacts See Your Promotional Emails

By Hannah Hill on Mon, Oct 28, 2013 @ 11:03 AM |


If your promotional or marketing emails are suddenly not being read, don’t panic. It’s not because your writing suddenly stinks or your customers are going on a strike against emails. Most likely, it’s because of Gmail’s new tabbed inbox.

Promotional and marketing emails used to be flagged as spam even though they weren’t spam. Now Google has taken this problem to a whole new level. Gmail’s tabs feature is designed to help users organize their emails more easily and avoid reading emails of little interest to them. Unless users go to the trouble of undoing tabs in their preferences, Gmail routes emails to one of three tabs depending on content: Primary, Promotions and Social. The Promotions tab, like the spam folder of years past, is a black hole that sucks up emails, never to be seen or read by the intended recipient.

How to Ensure Your Gmail Contacts See Your Promotional Emails

Some Gmail users actually like this system because it helps them stay organized and on top of their inbox. But most users are being inconvenienced without even knowing it. Emails and RSS Feed updates they signed up to receive–like your emails or blog updates–are getting lost in cyberspace, and unless they accidentally click on All Mail or decide to check out the Promotions tab, readers won’t even know your emails have been delivered.

It would be ideal for marketing automation providers to be able to mark emails “NOT A PROMOTION.” But Google doesn’t let you do that, at least not yet. Instead, it uses some complicated, top-secret algorithm to decide what gets routed where; unless you want to do some questionable stuff to make your promotional emails look like a letter from Aunt Sally, you can’t break the system. However, you can do a couple things to make it more likely your contact list sees your email.

  1. Tell your contacts to move your messages. 
    Since you can’t stop Gmail from mis-categorizing your emails, do the next best thing: tell your contacts to move your messages into the Primary tab. It’s not too hard; anyone who can sign up for an email or RSS Feed should be able to do it. Gmail users just have to click on a message in the Promotions tab and drag the message into the Primary tab. Once they’ve done this, they have to click “Yes” to agree to let Gmail put your emails in the right place. (Of course, sending the instructions via newsletter will fail. Announce it on Facebook or Twitter.)
  2. Ask your contacts to whitelist your email address.
    Whitelists tell Gmail that your email has been pre-approved. It stops emails from being routed to spam. Who knows, it might keep them out of the Promotions tab, too. It’s worth a try.
  3. Send your messages via some other method besides your marketing automation solution.
    Gmail seems to automatically move any message sent by MailChimp, Constant Contact and other email programs into the Promotions tab. If you don’t use these distribution systems, you have a higher chance of getting through to your recipients’ inbox. If you have a lot of subscribers, you might be better off sending your messages via carrier pigeon since you can’t email them all manually. Or, you could send your email just to yourself, archive it and post the link on Facebook. Remember that you’ll lose some tracking and analytics if you send it manually, but if it only takes one to get everyone on board with your strategy going forward and your email in the Primary Tab, it’s probably worth it.
  4. Use social media to send your messages.
    Some email marketers have gotten clever and posted on Facebook or LinkedIn, knowing that those subscribers who have enabled email notifications will get an email about it. Gmail diverts these, too, to the Social tab. For some reason, Gmail users are much more likely to look at emails in the Social tab.

We haven’t found a foolproof method for defeating Gmail’s tabs, but all these methods help ensure your contacts will actually see your emails. Track your opening stats for a few weeks to see how these ideas are working. If all else fails, do a webinar on how to turn tabs off. It’ll attract more people to your business and help readers find your emails, so it’s a win-win. If Baby Boomers are among your email distribution list you’ll want to download our new eBook ‘The Benefits of Marketing and Advertising to Baby Boomers’ and learn the golden rules in marketing to Boomers.

Download The Benefits of Marketing and Advertising to Baby Boomers

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